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Mark Fernald: How Do We Keep Guns Away From “Bad Guys”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA President Wayne LaPierre just after the Sandy Hook massacre. If a ‘bad guy’ pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the only answer, according to Mr. LaPierre, is for someone to pull out another gun and take the ‘bad guy’ out.

The NRA and the Republican Party advocate what they call “Constitutional carry”—allowing anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, at any time and anywhere (excluding, one presumes, people with felony convictions). Republicans all over the country are attacking background checks, gun-free zones, and laws that require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon.

The Democratic Party approach is different; it focuses on preventing people likely to misuse guns from getting them in the first place. The background check law has stopped over 1.5 million ‘bad guys’ from buying guns since 1994. That law passed after a Republican filibuster failed.

Unfortunately, our background check system has a couple of glaring loopholes. It does not cover sales of guns by unlicensed sellers at gun shows or sales between private parties, so any ‘bad guy’ who wants to buy a gun has an easy workaround.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to require a background check for all gun sales. Republicans seem to value easy access to guns over a system that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and people with severe mental disabilities.

This is not about Constitutional rights. Background checks and concealed carry permits are Constitutional. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that the right to bear arms is limited: It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia specifically referenced prior court decisions that upheld restrictions or bans on carrying concealed, loaded weapons.

For 94 years, New Hampshire has required a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in a car or on your person. The permits are issued by the chiefs of police in each city and town. The law states that permits can be issued to “a suitable person to be licensed.”

Our chiefs of police have taken their responsibility seriously, seeking out the record and the reputation of those applying for a concealed carry permit. Sometimes an applicant is an irresponsible citizen who is not suitable for a permit: a person who has a history of getting drunk in bars and picking fights; a person who has threatened someone with a gun in the past, though never convicted of a felony; a person who has been involved in road rage incidents; a person who has been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls to 911.

Under current law, if a person has committed an act of violence below the felony level, it is legal for that person to have a gun at home. But if that person wants to carry a loaded concealed weapon in public, New Hampshire has a higher standard implemented by our chiefs of police.

The State Senate and the House have now passed SB12, which eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon. In the Senate, the ten Democrats were the only no votes. Thirteen Republicans voted yes. The vote in the House was nearly as lopsided. Only two Republicans voted no, and only ten Democrats voted yes.

The effect of SB12 is to remove the discretion of chiefs of police to deny permits. Republicans talk about law and order; they should trust the chiefs of police to exercise good judgment in determining who should be allowed to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. This is what Republicans and the NRA have now abolished.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against SB12. Their arguments fell on deaf ears. The Governor has indicated he will sign SB12.

If you have a chance to speak to your Representative or Senator or the Governor, ask these questions: Should an alcoholic with multiple DWI convictions be allowed to carry a loaded concealed weapon? How about the man who punched his neighbor during an argument? Or the woman who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and sometimes fails to take her meds?

Once Republicans have succeeded in passing SB12, almost anybody could be carrying a loaded, concealed weapon—even people with violent histories. And our only defense, in this Republican world, will be to avoid the first shot, and try to return fire.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor. He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

New Poll Shows Gun Violence Prevention is Key Issue for NH Voters; Most State House Candidates Have a Record on Background Checks

On Friday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released new polling, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), of voters in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In the six battleground states, voters across the aisle expressed strong support for commonsense gun safety legislation, finding that candidates who endorse these policies are set to perform well on Election Day.

nh-ayotte-background-checks-pollIn New Hampshire, 42% of likely voters were LESS likely to vote for Kelly Ayotte because of her opposition to comprehensive background checks on gun sales. Only 14% were more likely to vote for Ayotte because of her position. Additionally, the poll found strong support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike for a number of gun violence prevention policies, and also that voters are more likely to vote for state legislators who support expanded background checks.

Of the 705 State House candidates on the ballot tomorrow, 307 of them already have a vote record on background checks. Granite State Progress compiled those votes from the past two legislative sessions and matched them with this year’s State House candidate list — take a look and see whether your State House candidates side with the gun lobby like U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, or with the overwhelming majority of Granite Staters who support common sense gun violence prevention.

GSP Brief: NH State House Candidates on Background Checks, 2016

GSP Brief: NH State House Candidates on Background Checks, 2016

 

 

Granite State Progress Renews Call For Senator Ayotte To Host Town Hall On Gun Violence Prevention

477 Days and Counting: Advocates Renew Call for Sen. Ayotte to Host Town Hall Specifically on Gun Violence Prevention

It’s been 16 months since Sen. Ayotte voted against criminal background checks and 477 days since she first refused to meet with New Hampshire gun violence prevention advocates

CONCORD, NH – Gun violence prevention advocates are renewing the call for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to host a town hall or forum specifically dedicated to the pressing issue of reducing gun violence. It’s been 477 days since the request was first issued and Senator Ayotte’s office has still refused to sit down and meet.

“Constituents have made phone calls, sent letters, signed petitions, and invited the Senator to coffee, but Senator Ayotte has repeatedly denied meeting requests from gun violence prevention advocates ever since she voted against background checks and the 89 percent of her constituents who support them,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director, Granite State Progress. “We renew our call for Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention. In the sixteen months since Senator Ayotte voted against common sense background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill, more shootings and more national tragedies have occurred. Senator Ayotte needs to stop hiding behind NRA lobby talking points and meet directly with her constituents. She has a responsibility as a U.S. Senator to participate in open town halls on these important topics instead of cherry-picking the issues she wants to discuss.”

In a letter to Senator Ayotte, Granite State Progress renewed the call for a town hall on gun violence prevention that would include participation from survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, in addition to gun violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.  Members of the organization are being asked to contact the Senator and call on her to engage in a community conversation about how we can work together to protect more children and families.

Background: In April 2013, Senator Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – the only bill that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales and improved the background check system. Instead, Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment created by the gun lobby and sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz that would actually weaken the system and put more guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill. Ayotte’s public approval ratings plummeted after her vote.

Granite State Progress first issued the call for a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, and Project for Safer Communities re-issued the call during the August 2013 Congressional recess, and Granite State Progress members additionally held coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence. Sen. Ayotte responded with a generic form letter stating she would hold general town halls later in the year – but for 16 months has ignored constituent requests for a conversation on gun violence prevention.

In contrast, during the national health reform debate in the Summer of ‘09, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation held town halls specifically focused on the pending health reform legislation – also an issue of national debate and interest.

NH Senate Vote On Mentally Ill And Guns Could Put Public Safety At Risk

NH Senate Votes to Loosen Public Safety Laws, Advance Dangerous Annulment Process to Restore Gun Rights to Mentally Ill

CONCORD, NH – The entire Senate Republican caucus and four Senate Democrats voted today to erode the quality of SB 244’s original relief from disabilities (RFD) program to restore gun rights for people whose mental health treatment has ended—the appropriate formula—and replace the bill with a dangerous and untested “annulment” process that doesn’t take into account mental health history. The 17-7 vote means the bill moves to the House.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“SB 244’s original goal was to report the names of those who are prohibited purchasers of firearms due to mental health to be reported to the NICS background check system, and to establish a relief from disabilities program for people whose mental health treatment has ended so that they can restore their gun rights. Granite State Progress supported these original goals, but the gun lobby amended version of SB 244 jeopardizes public safety.”

“The annulment process that passed the Senate diminishes the state’s ability to determine when a person should get relief, and does not provide judges with appropriate evidence to consider when making these determinations. Unlike the original bill, the amendment does not require any consideration of the person’s mental health history, the person’s reputation as developed through character evidence or character witnesses, and changes in the person’s condition. No documentation is required regarding documentation of the commitment or treatment resolution, nor does it require releases allowing mental health providers to provide opinions about the person’s dangerousness and suitability to possess firearms.”

“SB 244 will likely not meet federal standards for a relief from disabilities program, meaning the State of New Hampshire cannot apply for federal funding to help implement a process to submit mental health records. The striking irony is that SB 244 originally set out to make sure New Hampshire was submitting mental health records to the background checks system, and instead this gun lobby amendment narrowed the bill to only how to remove records we aren’t even adequately reporting. We are beyond disappointed that Senate Republicans, aided by four Senate Democrats, chose to undermine public safety and establish an untested and unstable annulment process that could put guns back in the hands of those who should not have them. Following tragedies such as Newtown and Virginia Tech, we expect more.”

“On a better note, the Senate rejected a skewed study commission that focused solely on how to keep records out of the background checks system. That commission membership was heavily tilted towards gun groups and sought to undermine the current background checks system.”

More background:

SB 244’s annulment process doesn’t meet best practices and jeopardizes federal funding opportunities should New Hampshire start to report mental health records in the future.

The ATF form, wherein states apply for their Relief from Disability programs to be certified in order to receive federal funding, makes it clear that the state program must “receive evidence concerning and [must] consider…the circumstances regarding the [prohibition]; applicant’s record, which must include, at a minimum, the applicant’s mental health and criminal history records; and applicant’s reputation, developed, at a minimum, through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence.” The amendment’s process doesn’t require mental health records be submitted, doesn’t require any character evidence, and doesn’t require consideration of the circumstances surrounding prohibition.

Even red states that pass these laws require that mental health professionals weigh in: South Carolina passed a law last year that requires: 1) examination of the circumstances surrounding the prohibition, 2) the petitioner’s mental health and criminal history records, 3) character evidence, and 4) a current evaluation by either the state Department of Health or a licensed physician addressing whether the petitioner poses a threat to self or others.

The amended version also lowers the judicial standard for restoring rights, making it more likely that people who are still dangerous will have their rights restored and be able to buy guns. Under the original bill, the petitioner had to show “by a preponderance” that he is not dangerous. Under the amendment, the other side has to show “by clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard) that he is dangerous, and that the “danger” would have to be “potentially serious.”

NH House Committee Passes Study Commission on Gun Violence and Background Checks

Proposed 10-member commission would study impact of firearms violence, background checks, and other firearms safety measures

CONCORD, NH – The NH House Criminal Justice committee voted 12-6 in a bipartisan fashion to pass an amended bill today establishing a study commission on gun violence and background checks, among other firearms safety measures. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“We appreciate the dedicated legislators who are as concerned as we are about gun violence for moving forward with a commission to study gun violence and remedies for it. We all know that 89% of Granite Staters already support background checks, but frankly the public is ahead of some politicians on this one. Study commissions are a common way for the New Hampshire legislature to address heated political topics, and while public safety shouldn’t fall into that category, the legislature will benefit from a dedicated study of firearms violence and remedies for our state.

“The proposed commission will include a diverse set of stakeholders from law enforcement, the mental health community, domestic and sexual violence experts, gun violence prevention advocates, gun owners, and retail firearm businesses in addition to legislators. This fair and balanced representation of interests will make the study commission insightful and fruitful. We look forward to its passage.”

Background:

The amendment was added to HB 1264, which originally sought to allow a nonresident from a state that does not require a license to carry a loaded pistol or revolver to carry in New Hampshire. Rep. JR Hoell is the sole sponsor of the underlying bill. Rep. Hoell last week introduced an amendment to HB 1589, the background checks bill, which would have replaced it with a committee to study the “correlation between current New Hampshire law and the low violent crime rate in this state.”

HB 1264, as amended, establishes a commission to study the impact of firearms violence, explore options to strengthen the background check system for firearms sales, and consider measures to promote firearms safety.

Mass Confusion In The NH House Over ‘Background Check’ Bill

NH House votes FOR Background Checks bill before voting against it, amid confusion of NRA Lobby misdirection

Or, how do you vote down a policy you passed twice and refused to table three times?

GunCONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted today 174-166 to support an amended version of HB 1589, a background checks bill that would expand criminal background checks to all commercial gun sales—including online sales. However, following the initial vote, opponents to the bill introduced several motions to stop the bill and an amendment to send it to a destined-to-fail study committee, absent community stakeholders. In the confusion that followed, the New Hampshire House surprisingly and ultimately failed to pass any version of the bill – despite previous roll call votes expressing clear support from the majority of State Representatives.

Below is a timeline of the House discussion and votes. It paints a very different story than the final vote outcome makes it appear.*

NH House Refuses to Table Criminal Background Checks Bill: House votes 163-165 against tabling HB 1589

NH House Supports Criminal Background Checks Bill: House votes to support HB 1589, as amended, by a strong vote of 174-166

NH House Supports Criminal Background Checks Study Committee: Amendment introduced to replace HB 1589 with a study committee; House votes 177-175 to adopt study committee motion

NH House Refuses to Table Criminal Background Checks Bill: Motion introduced to table study committee motion, possibly to allow for an amended version of it; NH House votes 173-183 against tabling study committee version of the bill

NH House Refuses to Indefinitely Postpone Criminal Background Checks Bill: Motion made to indefinitely postpone HB 1589 for the rest of the session; House rejects motion by vote of 133-226

Pro-Public Safety Legislators Reject Study Committee After Learning It Is Designed to Fail: After learning that the study committee would be stacked with anti-background check legislators – essentially making it designed to fail – House votes 165-195 against study committee motion

After the slanted study committee motion failed – and in the absence of another amendment on the floor – a motion to vote the bill Inexpedient to Legislate was introduced. In a rapid and confusing series of votes, with many State Representatives mistakenly believing they had run out of other options, the NH House of Representatives ultimately and surprisingly voted 242-118 to end the bill – despite voting several times to support earlier versions of it and refusing motions to table.

“The final vote was abrupt and surprising given several roll call and division majority votes in support of criminal background checks,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “There was a lot of confusion on the floor about the order of the votes, and immediately after the final vote a member even questioned the next step for the bill.”

“We applaud the State Representatives who stood by the 89 percent of Granite Staters who support criminal background checks. While the final vote was disappointing, the earlier votes demonstrate strong support in the New Hampshire House to pass a background checks bill. Granite State Progress is committed to reducing gun violence in our communities and improving public safety. All of the votes gave us a list of elected officials to work on as we consider next steps.”

 

* For reference: In the NH House, legislators vote OTP – Ought to Pass or ITL – Inexpedient to legislate on committee amendments, before voting OTP or ITL on the bill itself. In the case of HB 1589, the committee amendment replaced the entire bill. Thus, support for the committee recommendation indicated support for HB 1589, as a whole, as well.

 

Teachers’ Unions Make A Call For Common Sense Gun Reform

Not Another Newtown NN13

Not Another Newtown Panel At Netroots Nation 2013

Recently we marked the six-month anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown Elementary School, where 20 children and six teachers were murdered.  After that tragedy. millions of Americans began talking about common sense gun reform, include Randi Weingarten (President of AFT) and Lily Eskelsen Garcia (Vice President of NEA).

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Randi represents the nearly 1.5 million educators and public employees, including those who worked at Sandy Hook.  I recently heard her speak in support of common sense gun reforms, and relating what happened in Newtown.  She highlighted the heroism of the six AFT educators who gave their lives in attempt to protect the children.  And then she told the story of a teacher who was locked arm in arm with her student at the time of their deaths. Even in her last moments, the teacher was trying to protect her student.

After Randi went public with her strong support of gun reforms, she received considerable kickback from the National Rifle Association (NRA).  That is not going to stop her.  When I heard her speak, she told the crowd, “I am glad to be on the list of people they (NRA) hate.”

One of the initial responses to the Newtown tragedy that popped up in state legislatures across the country is this idea that we should ‘arm’ our teachers.  The NRA likes to say that ‘the only way to stop a bad guy is a good guy with a gun’.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia (image courtesy of NEA)

Lily Eskelsen Garcia (image courtesy of NEA)

Lily Eskelsen Garcia completely rejects this idea.  Lily represents over three million educators nationwide.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

Both Randi and Lily have applauded the efforts of Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Pat Toomey – who have both come under attack from the NRA.  We need to show our support to these brave Senators who have both been willing to take on the NRA.  At the same time we need to continue to push back against those Senators – like Kelly Ayotte – who voted against comprehensive and enforceable background checks.  Hold your Senators accountable to the voters, not the NRA.

The Manchin-Toomey bill focused on common sense gun reforms: closing loopholes in current law and require background checks on all commercial gun sales.  Some states already require these harmless background checks, but not all.  Those states that do not require background checks allow people to buy guns at gun shows or via the internet, without any background check at all.  Comprehensive and enforceable background checks would help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mental ill.

As Steven Maloney, president of the 168-member Manchester Patrolman’s Association, recently told the Union-Leader:

“We feel as a police patrolmen’s association that background checks are something that will keep us safer, the community safer.  Most of us are gun owners, so we do believe in the Second Amendment.”

But why isn’t the rest of the labor movement more involved in this fight for common sense gun reforms? Where are the other police unions who predominately push for tighter gun control?  Is it because too many people are buying the lies from the NRA that ‘Obama wants to take your guns’?

These reforms are not about taking your guns away.  These reforms are about ensuring that responsible gun owners have the ability to purchase weapons while keeping criminals from obtaining them.

The NRA is famous for twisting the message when it comes to guns.  We are talking about how to stop tragedies like Newtown from happening again.  Their response: “buy more guns and arm the teachers”.  What does selling more guns and arming teachers do to prevent dangerous people from obtaining guns? NOTHING! Every answer the NRA gives leads to the sale of more guns.

Do you honestly think that this is about the Second Amendment? Do not be fooled.  This is about the NRA using the Newtown Tragedy and fear to sell more guns.  They are standing in the way of passing legislation that will help prevent the wrong people from obtaining guns.

I am glad to see that Randi, Lily and Steven have used their position as labor leaders to help push for this common sense legislation.  Randi has even encouraged many of the AFT locals to pull their retirement funds from any gun manufacturers.

Labor unions need to use their collective voice to call for common sense gun reform.  We are talking about the safety of the public.  We are talking about the safety of our public workers.  I would love to see more police and public sector unions come voice their support for the Manchin-Toomey bill.  Their support would make a strong impact and could be the push that the bill needs to pass the Senate.

 

Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Rally at State Capitol; “Shame on Sen. Ayotte” for Siding with NRA Lobby Over Granite State Constituents

Community members and advocates take Sen. Ayotte to task on recent votes, call on her to answer for her vote at three town halls scheduled for this week. 

Press conference wide view

CONCORD, NH – More than thirty community members participated in a press conference at the State Capitol today to highlight opposition to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s recent votes against gun violence prevention, and to call on her to answer during her three upcoming town halls this week why she sided with the NRA lobby over constituents.

A New England College poll earlier this year confirmed that Granite Staters overwhelming support stronger gun violence prevention measures – with nearly 9 in 10 supporting criminal background checks for every gun sale – but Sen. Ayotte voted against the popular provision and constituents this month. Public Policy Polling released numbers last week that found Sen. Ayotte is facing serious backlash over her vote against commonsense background checks, a sentiment echoed by letters to the editor and editorial pages across the state – and soon to be seen at town halls this week.

Speakers at the press conference made the case for urgent and swift action to prevent more gun violence in our communities, and called on Senator Ayotte to answer why she is blocking efforts to do so. They vowed that gun violence prevention advocates would turn out for the Senator’s three town halls this week to demand answers (RSVP to the town hall in Tilton). Here are some of the statements from today’s event:

Judy Stadtman is a co-founder of NH Project for Safer Communities. She lives in Portsmouth with her husband and two children.

“It seems that Senator Ayotte needs a reminder that New Hampshire is not just a ‘pro-gun’ state – it is also a ‘pro-gun safety’ state. A full 89 percent of Granite State residents support expanded background checks as a moderate, commonsense measure to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. By voting against bi-partisan compromise legislation to require expanded background checks, Senator Ayotte chose to take sides with gun lobbyists who want to weaken federal and state guns laws so that virtually anyone can buy any kind of gun with no questions asked, and carry it in every public place in America. That’s not in line with the views of responsible, mainstream gun owners, who overwhelmingly support expanded background checks, and it’s not in line with mainstream New Hampshire values.” – Judy Stadtman, co-founder of NH Project for Safer Communities

Judy Stadtman and Rep Steve Shurloff

Judy Stadtman and Rep Steve Shurtleff

Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) is a Retired Deputy U.S. Marshall and current NH House Majority Leader.

“As a former teacher and a member of law enforcement my heart breaks every time I think about these terrible tragedies. We must act to protect our communities in New Hampshire and across the country.   And we must do it without delay.  Too much is at stake. That is why I was very disappointed with the vote in the US Senate last week – these were bipartisan compromise bills focused on the very basic commonsense steps we can take to reduce gun violence. I have been told that New Hampshire’s own Senator Ayotte is holding several public town hall meetings this week. I commend her for that. Anytime you vote contrary to the opinion of 90% of your constituents it is important to honestly and personally explain why you did so. I sincerely hope – and without any partisan feelings here at all – that she offers that kind of an explanation this week.  It is clear that the people of New Hampshire are looking for one, are expecting one, and deserve one.” – Rep. Steve Shurtleff, Retired Deputy U.S. Marshall

Bill Kingston is a retired airline pilot, combat veteran, gun owner, NRA member and one of the founders of New Castle Promise (modeled after Sandy Hook Promise). He lives in New Castle with his family.

“Let me tell you about your constituents here in New Hampshire, Sen. Ayotte. We are disgusted at the epidemic of violence that has swept this country. A full 89 percent of us support expanded background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We are horrified that the Constitution of the country we fought for – myself in Vietnam – has been so twisted and tortured by the likes of Wayne LaPierre and the gun manufacturers he represents, and that you and other Senators are willing to go along with it. Responsible gun owners understand that what our Constitution says is that all of our rights have limitations. The First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater and the Second Amendment does not give criminals the right to buy guns. Nor was it written to promote this paranoid fantasy that somehow we need to arm ourselves against a possibly hostile government. As a U.S. combat veteran, this sounds to me a lot like sedition. Of course, Sen. Ayotte – not wanting to sound crazy – did not talk about armed uprising when she tried to explain her inexplicable vote to make us less safe in our homes and our beds and our streets and our communities. Sen. Ayotte offered some garbled explanation about how the rights of law abiding gun owners might be infringed upon – total baloney, we all know. When she saw her poll numbers slip as a result she then did an interview where she offered some barely comprehensible talking point about protecting licensed gun dealers. I am here to say enough with all of that Sen. Ayotte. You can protect licensed dealers, and our children and yes, even your own political career, by standing up for what’s right and fixing our gun laws. It’s time to do the right thing.” – Bill Kingston, New Castle Promise

Rabbi Robin Nafshi serves at the Temple Beth Jacob in Concord.

 

“In Judaism, safety is a religious concern. Torah states: “When you build a … house, you shall make a parapet (or fence) for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.”  In other words, you are required to properly gate a roof, in order to prevent people from falling off. The later rabbis site this verse to issue a general directive requiring a person to remove or correct any safety hazard,  or do whatever is possible to maximize community safety. More specifically, those rabbis ruled that Jewish law prohibits someone from selling offensive weapons to suspected criminals. We know that the overwhelming majority of Americans – and Granite Staters —  support these efforts as well. There is no sane reason to opposed background checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase at gun shows and from private sellers, not just for those who buy from a federal firearms license holder, as the law currently states. After the shootings in Newtown this past year, a sixth grader in our religious said to me, “Rabbi, we expect kids in high school and middle school to be faced with gun violence. But elementary school? How horrible.” I turned to her and said, “What kind of a world have we adults given you where you expect to face gun violence at school? I’m so sorry. We have failed you. We have failed you.” And our elected representatives have failed us. Background checks have saved, do save, and will continue to save lives. They must be expanded.” – Rabbi Robin Nafshi

1 http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/04/ayotte-faces-backlash-over-gun-vote.html

2 http://www.nec.edu/news/nh-voters-want-gun-restrictions-new-england-college-poll-shows-overwhelming-support-for-tougher-laws

Gun Rally 4-29-13 GSP

Labor and Community Activists Protest Senator Ayotte’s Vote on Gun Reform

One of the most controversial debates going on in Congress and throughout the country is the issue of gun reform legislation. Even among the NH Labor News fan club there is great and contentious debate. People have asked me, why is a labor union blog talking about gun reform? I along with members of the American Federation of Teachers feel that the gun issue is an issue labor should be talking about. It is a workplace safety issue.

It has been four months since 20 first graders and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school. Those heroic educators were members of AFT. That direct connection has push AFT directly into the gun reform issue.

As all of you are probably aware the US Senate held their first vote on common sense comprensive gun reform legislation. Time and time again, in poll after poll American citizens overwhelmingly support universal background checks on all gun sales. The bill like so many in the Senate was filibustered by the Senate GOP. The vote, which was 54-46 failed to pass the 60 vote threshold to beat the filibuster.

After the vote, AFT President Randi Wiengarten released the following statement:

“Make no mistake—the NRA and the gun manufacturers won out today over the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of our children, families and communities. A government by the people and for the people must serve the American people and not the gun lobby.

“The tragic question facing us now is how many gun deaths will it take before Congress lives up to its basic responsibility to protect and serve the American people? Twenty-six children and teachers gunned down in Newtown, Conn. Thirty-two students and faculty killed at Virginia Tech. U.S. Rep. Gabby Gifford shot outside a supermarket. Thirteen students and educators brutally murdered at Columbine High School. Twelve people gunned down in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Nearly 3,500 Americans killed by guns since Dec. 14—more than 50 of them children. The time for action is now.

“We applaud Sens. Manchin, Toomey, Feinstein, Blumenthal, Schumer, Kirk and Lautenberg for their leadership, as well as the other senators who voted for commonsense gun safety legislation today. AFT members admire their courage for standing up and doing what is right for our children and families.”

This vote drew ire from the local community, especially here in New Hampshire. NH GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte was one of the Senators who voted against this common sense legislation. This vote also showed the absolute disfunction of the US Senate. The filibuster rule must be changed. No other place does 46 votes beat 54.

Today I joined with other labor activists, former union members and community activists to show our distain for Senator Ayotte’s vote against universal background checks on all gun sales. Some of the people in the crowd including a State Rep who retired from New Hampshire Department of Health and Humans Department has seen gun violence first hand. She has been an outspoken advocate against domestic abuse and gun violence for as long as I have know her. In a recent rally by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns rally in North Carolina, Kit Grunelle highlighted the fact background checks help protect women of domestic violence. Background checks stop gun sales to those who have protective orders against them. “In states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Background Check VoteWe are calling on all Americans to contact their US Senators this week. See how your Senator voted. If they voted for the bill, call them and thank them for standing up for the safety and security of the American people. If they voted against the bill call them and tell them how disappointed you are in their vote and that you want them to reconsider their position. If they do not change their position explain to them that you will not be able to support them in their next election campaign. You can reach your senator by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

We need to focus our efforts by focusing on the facts, not NRA propaganda. Background Checks do not impede our second amendment rights. It is a minor inconvenience at most that will help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and the mentally ill.

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